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Famous Dave’s BBQ and Blues Club

18 Jun

Famous Dave’s BBQ and Blues Club
Visited Sunday, June 5th 2011

Famous Dave’s is synonymous with BBQ in the Twin Cities. Maybe not as legendary as Arthur Bryant’s is to Kansas City, but it is THE place for BBQ locally, and with very good reason. For many years, I declared Famous Dave’s to be my all-time favorite place to eat. The brisket and pulled pork were succulent, and while waiting for my slabs of meat to arrive I would try all the different BBQ sauces at the table with a spoon or knife.

Since I moved to the Twin Cities part-time in 2002, Famous Dave’s has been the “go to” place for family and friends visiting me. I have very happy memories of eating a big BBQ supper on a scorching hot summer night after work at Valleyfair at the Minnetonka location off Hwy 7, with a tall Summit to drink and a Twins game on TV in the corner. I even took a couple first dates to Famous Dave’s over the years. (Not Lauren… we had Indian food.)

Lately, due to our attempt to try more new restaurants rather than revisiting old favorites, Famous Dave’s was sort of put on hold. But once I started thinking about it last week and really craving some BBQ, it was on hold no longer and Lauren and I paid a visit to the location at Calhoun Square on a Sunday evening. We sat outside on a very pleasant night and I intentionally photo-bombed some international tourists’ group photo a table over.

I always get the same thing, every single time—Two-Meat Combo. Included are the corn muffin, corn-on-the-cob, two sides, and two meats, which is usually enough food even for me. This time I opted for the Georgia pulled pork and the catfish, with sides of green beans and mashed potatoes. I like to douse everything in the different kinds of BBQ sauce, and by “douse” I mean “smother.” Famous Dave’s recently introduced Wilbur’s Revenge, a sauce a level above the previously hottest Devil’s Spit. It was pretty dang hot and spicy, although not bursting in deliciousness like the other flavors. I don’t need to tell you the food was all amazing. The catfish came with two dipping sauces (I still preferred the BBQ sauces at the table) and the pork came on a big slice of Texas Toast. Mouth watering as I type…

Since we had been at Beer Fest the day before and I drank my weight in 4 oz. beer samples, I opted to order a Pepsi instead, and our attentive waitress kept it filled all night long. While eating, we noticed that—gasp!—Famous Dave’s has a Sunday brunch buffet. I knew we had no choice but to try it at our earliest convenience, so the following week, Lauren and I met good friend Patrick Lynch to decimate the buffet. (Yes, I know “decimate” means to destroy one-tenth of something, which is approximately what I did.)

The brunch buffet featured a lot of typical brunchy things, along with Famous Dave’s chicken wings and rib tips. They also featured a Bloody Mary bar and omelet station. Everything was pretty good, but the French Toast with the butter and praline sauce was the best I’ve ever eaten. Amazing! Strangely, I also really enjoyed the alfredo pasta dish. With some light bluesy jazz band in the background, it made for a nice atmosphere. I ate three plates full and didn’t need another meal the rest of the day!

Ah, Famous Dave’s. So Midwestern! I honestly couldn’t tell you if this is “real” barbecue but it tastes damn good to me. It’s one of those better examples of a small chain restaurant that really does achieve consistent results. Except if you go to the Linden Hills location, where my mother-in-law and I saw a rat once. Swear to God. She wrote to Famous Dave’s and they sent her a $100 gift card, which was a good gesture but it’s also kind of funny – kind of like, “Sorry you saw a rodent in one of our restaurants! Here, come eat at one of our restaurants again, our treat.” Um, thanks? But, I digress. And I sincerely promise that I’ve been to the Calhoun Square location of Famous Dave’s and I’ve never seen any rodents.

Like Ryan, I usually go for the two-meat combo, but for me it’s mostly about being indecisive. UNLIKE Ryan, it’s always too much food for me and I either take half home, or he eats the rest. Can you guess which it was this visit? The latter. I got brisket and fried chicken, with the sides of steamed broccoli and potato salad, and I ate maybe half of it.

One of the things I hate about eating meat, in general (and I know I’m repeating myself here on the blog) is fatty, icky meats. I only eat lean meat. If it’s too….icky….I won’t touch it. Unfortunately, a lot of the times the brisket at Famous Dave’s is “icky” to me, but Ryan doesn’t seem to have any hang-ups about it. So out of three slices of brisket and two pieces of fried chicken I ate one of each. And I ate the broccoli and potato salad. And he ate the rest!

The fried chicken was delicious, though. Very crispy skin and juicy interior. I don’t eat much fried chicken for health reasons but believe you me, if I didn’t have such concerns I would be taking down a fried chicken breast weekly, at least. God damn, that is good stuff.

When we saw the ad for the brunch buffet, I knew it wouldn’t take much convincing of Ryan to go. He LOVES buffets, especially brunch-focused ones. I have to say, it was pretty dang good! I typically don’t like buffets and would rather order off of a breakfast menu – smaller portions, better quality is my motto. But for a brunch buffet this one started out well. They had a massive display of fresh fruit! Mmm-mm! Outstanding pineapple. Most of the rest was standard…eggs, bacon, sausage links, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, barbecued chicken, ham… and of course Famous Dave’s famous bread pudding, because what could be more brunch-ish than ridiculously decadent bread pudding coated in praline sauce? Omigod, I die just thinking about it.

Ambiance – The patio is nice, especially now that the Calhoun Square remodel is mostly done, the area of the patio is pedestrian-only. Inside can be very loud if there’s live music.
Service – Very good, no complaints here. Ryan’s Coke and my Arnold Palmer were both kept filled. However another waitress did trip over one of those cigarette butt tank things and nearly came crashing into me, she started cursing loudly and complaining about it. I felt like she should have apologized for the swearing but whatever.
Food – Always tasty!
Overall experience – Very positive. Ryan loves Famous Dave’s and I like it and am happy to oblige him!

The Necessities
Famous Dave’s BBQ and Blues Club
3001 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis MN

Have you eaten at Famous Dave’? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below!